Attorney Oscar Selgado Sentenced to 10 Years for Abetment to Commit Murder

Attorney Oscar Selgado Sentenced to 10 Years for Abetment to Commit Murder

Ten years, that’s the sentence attorney Oscar Selgado is facing for his conviction of abetment to commit murder. Justice Nigel Pilgrim handed down the sentence in the Belize High Court following Selgado’s conviction on March 8. In his summation, Justice Pilgrim explained that the maximum penalty for the offense, even if the actual murder had not been committed was life. Justice Pilgrim then explained that the starting point of his sentence was 13 years, but then added 3 years for aggravating factors such as the premeditation of the offense, repeated acts of soliciting the hitman Giovanni Ramirez, and his breach of the public trust as an attorney. On the other hand, Justice Pilgrim noted that the mitigating factors in his favor included his upstanding character, years in public service, and his positive influence in his community. All things considered, a reduction of six years was made. As it relates to the health factors, specifically his diabetic and hypertensive conditions, Justice Pilgrim said that these illnesses were not sufficient for the court to interfere with the sentence. Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn Vidal said that she is satisfied with the ruling but knows that the appeal process will now commence.

Cherly Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions: “We are pleased with the sentence and I think that the decision was well reasoned. Well in the sentencing process the judge must look at the aggravating and mitigating factors of the offense and also the aggravating and mitigating factors of the offender. And so the judge had to go through all of those factors and it was in fact a mitigating factor that up until this time he was making a significant contribution to the criminal justice system. We think that the ultimate sentence is commensurate with the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. I believe it will be set for case management and then orders will be given in relation to the filing of submissions and then a date will be set for the hearing of the appeal.”

Attorney Arthur Saldivar says that Selgado’s legal team now has 21 days to get the ball rolling on the appeal and that the team has much to consider. He said that he feels a ten-year sentence was excessive, and that the strength of the evidence will be an issue brought up in the appeal.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “It marks the end of the first phase of Mr. Selgado’s struggle to vindicate himself. Mr. Selgado is certainly committed in his belief that what has transpired was not in keeping with what was required legally and as a result of that has endeavored to appeal. So we’re at that stage now where we are contemplating the appeal because there is certainly much to consider in terms of the process. I don’t know that he did not consider it. The mere fact that he mentions it is consideration. The weight that he gave to it may not have been what would have been expected. But again, he’s guided by precedent. What we must bear in mind is that once conviction has been arrived at, there are certain parameters that the court must operate within in coming to its decision. There is nothing that the learned justice stated in coming to his decision that have me believe that he did not consider those parameters. So in so far as my expectations and of what he said and what the outcome was, I think it was within the range reasonable for him to have considered. I do believe, however, 10 years to be a bit excessive. Given that a conviction was secured, one may want to consider that the evidence was strong, because a conviction was what it resulted in. But the standard for evidence is what has to be assessed, especially when it comes to something as important as a person’s liberty. The standard has to be attested against the weight of what is at stake. So when we have a situation where most of what is being presented is hearsay, there has to be greater scrutiny and greater attention because there’s a greater likelihood of injustice taking place.”

Selgado was on trial for contracting a hitman, Giovanni Ramirez, to kill Belize City resident Marilyn Barnes. At the trial it was revealed that Barnes had made a report against Selgado to the General Legal Council, the body responsible for disciplining attorneys. Barnes had accused Selgado of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature against a male intern working at the Office of the Ombudsman. Giovanni Ramirez later told Commissioner of Police Chester Williams about the arrangement, after he had extorted money from Selgado without carrying out the hit. Ramirez said that he was in fear for his life as Selgado appeared to have contracted another hitman to kill him. The court accepted the prosecution’s submission that Ramirez did not want to testify for fear of his life, and so his statement given to police was admitted into evidence. The prosecution secured a conviction despite major issues with the evidence, including the alleged recordings between Ramirez, Commissioner Williams, and the DPP going missing.

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